Caravans Will Soon Become Normal, Says Mexico’s Interior Secretary

By Kimberly Hayek

Mexico’s Interior Secretary, Olga Sanchez Cordero, said caravans may be a new phenomena now, but will soon become normal. She said if the situation in their countries of origin does not change, the number of migrants entering Mexico and heading north could reach 700,000 per year within the next five years.

“The new safest model for migrants is through caravans. It’s a new phenomenon that we have not had before,” Sanchez Cordero said at a meeting in Washington DC organized by the Migration Policy Institute on Feb. 28.

“It is unusual but soon will become normal—caravans coming towards the north.”

Although historically mainly those from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador migrated to the United States, the new figure will also include Nicaraguan citizens, Sanchez Cordero said. It’s her first visit to Washington DC since becoming Mexico’s Secretary of Interior on Dec. 1, when Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office.

“They were not large numbers originally, because the Nicaraguans would usually go south to Costa Rica, not to the north. But now the political situation in that country can lead to a greater migratory flow from Nicaragua.”

Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, who heads the country’s leftist regime, ruled Nicaragua as a communist dictator for more than a decade before he was ousted in 1990. He returned to power after winning an election in 2006. Chavez, Venezuela’s socialist leader at the time, financed Ortega’s campaign.

Ortega’s family established a centralized system in which the government hands out lucrative contracts to his cronies. Despite mass protests, the family appears set on staying in power.

Sanchez Cordero Implicates ‘Pueblo Sin Fronteras’

Mexico is identifying the leaders of non-governmental organizations for recruiting, promoting, and organizing the caravans.

“We need to look at who is promoting caravans, what organizations are promoting them,” Sanchez Cordero said. “Now, who the leaders of these caravans are, how people are recruited from Honduras, [how] the leaders of the caravans are recruited, and how this migratory movement occurs.”

Last year, a caravan of nearly 8,000 migrants—mostly from Central America—reached the border city of Tijuana in October. On Jan. 14, another caravan of approximately 13,500 departed Honduras, and about 1,800 made it to the Piedras Negras border, across from Eagle Pass, Texas. 

Sanchez Cordero said individuals from the open-borders group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, or ‘People Without Borders,’ are among those the Mexican government has identified in promoting and organizing the illegal caravans.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras has denied it’s behind the formation of the caravans, but the group has led caravans from Central America to the United States for years. On its website, the group states its dream is: “To build solidarity bridges among peoples and turndown border walls imposed by greed.”

On Feb. 28, Pueblo Sin Fronteras denounced the Interior Secretary’s comments in a statement released on Twitter, saying her comments “criminalize organizations and individuals of civil society who defend migrant rights. These comments create chaos at the border.”

“Our organization has not participated in the organization of any migrant caravan since the inauguration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.”

López Obrador took office on Dec. 1. The caravan of approximately 8,000 reached the U.S. border in Tijuana in October 2018.

Human Smuggling is a ‘Huge Business’

Sanchez Cordero implied that caravan leaders who have “illegally managed” past caravans could be involved in human smuggling. 

“This is a huge business, smuggling people is a huge business,” said Sanchez Cordero.

She said that if for example, human smugglers, or those who promote caravans, charge $2,000 per person to a group of 300,000, the scope of the business is huge.

Last year, the number of Border Patrol apprehensions along the southwest border almost hit 400,000—averaging out to almost 1,100 per day. So far, Border Patrol has apprehended almost 268,000 people at the southwest border, Border Patrol chief of operations Brian Hastings on March 5. The numbers are on target to reach beyond 640,000 for the fiscal year.

There were 300,000 illegal crossings into Mexico from its southern border, and many of those migrants arrived to the border with the United States, Sanchez Cordero said. 

Leslie Yoana Coban, a migrant from Honduras who arrived in Tijuana, Mexico with last year’s caravan, told The Epoch Times on Dec. 2 she is waiting for her U.S.-based brothers to find a “coyote” to take her across the U.S. border illegally—for $9,000.

Leslie Yoana Coban at the new migrant camp, 10 miles from the U.S. border, in the Mariano Matamoros neighborhood of Tijuana, Mexico, on Dec. 2, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Coban left her four children behind in Honduras—on her ex-husband’s doorstep.

“Yesterday, I cried when I spoke to them because the one that’s 4 asked me if I would return. I said no,” Coban said at the migrant camp in Tijuana, Mexico on Dec. 2. “I speak with them and I tell them that I’m fine, to not worry, and to take care. That I love them very much.”

She is one of the many migrants The Epoch Times spoke to who had plans to either hop the border fence themselves or pay a coyote thousands of dollars to get them across.

Sanchez Cordero said the Lopez Obrador administration seeks to “break down” the big business of human smuggling and have a safe southern border by regulating immigration.

“We want to regulate immigration in our nation, I believe this is a sovereign right of Mexico to have organized migration.”

Reuters and The Epoch Times Reporter Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report